February 27, 2013

Maize was common in Peru 5000 years ago

It has been confirmed, after decades of debate, that the people of coastal Peru did not just live on fishing but also on farming.

Jonathan Haas et al., Evidence for maize (Zea mays) in the Late Archaic (3000–1800 B.C.) in the Norte Chico region of Peru. PNAS 2013. Pay per view (for six months) → LINK [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1219425110]


For more than 40 y, there has been an active discussion over the presence and economic importance of maize (Zea mays) during the Late Archaic period (3000–1800 B.C.) in ancient Peru. The evidence for Late Archaic maize has been limited, leading to the interpretation that it was present but used primarily for ceremonial purposes. Archaeological testing at a number of sites in the Norte Chico region of the north central coast provides a broad range of empirical data on the production, processing, and consumption of maize. New data drawn from coprolites, pollen records, and stone tool residues, combined with 126 radiocarbon dates, demonstrate that maize was widely grown, intensively processed, and constituted a primary component of the diet throughout the period from 3000 to 1800 B.C.

See also: Science Daily.


  1. This is extremely interesting. Does it alter the prevailing view on where maize was first domesticated?

    1. I don't think so, the first teosinte (proto-maize) crops seem to be from c. 5000 BCE in Mexico. But it implies flow of ideas between Meso and South America, either by land or sea very early in chronology (but still some 2000 years after Mexico).

    2. Last year Tom Dillehay from Vanderbilt University and Duccio Bonavia from Peru’s Academia Nacional de la Historia reported that they had found 6700 years old domesticated maze remains from Paredones and Huaca Prieta on Peru's northern coast. They took the view that maize had come through the land.

      The oldest remains of domesticated maize from Panama are 7600 years old, found by Anthony Ranere of Temple University and Dolores Piperno of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

      In Mexico the oldest domesticated maize comes from the Balsas River valley, where remains going back to 9200 years have been found.


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